Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Matthew 21

Matthew begins to bring the gospel to its culmination: the death and resurrection of Jesus. Each of the stories, parables and encounters for the next 5 chapters is moving us toward that conclusion. The journey begins with Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem. This Palm Sunday journey is a journey of a couple of miles. From the top of the Mount of Olives the entire city of Old Jerusalem is laid out at one's feet. From there, through the Kidron valley and into the Golden Gate is a half an hour's walk. It draws a crowd.

Jesus first act upon entering the city and the Temple mount is to clear the money changers and those who had turned the Temple Square into a market place. Churches have to be aware of doing anything that might make it appear that they are selling and or buying spiritual goods and services. The sellers of animals, the money changers, etc. are all making money off of the spiritual needs of the pilgrims who have come for worship. Remember that the worshipers need the animals and birds etc. to offer as a sacrifice for their guilt and for fellowship with God. The money changers are converting "secular currency" for "temple currency" -- at a significant profit, of course.

Jesus authority is questions (23-27) and in response to this he tells two parables: the parable of the two sons: who does the will of his Father: the one who says he will go and doesn't or the one says he won't go but actually does? The answer is the one who actually did what the Father wanted (regardless of what they said they were going to do!). The Hebrew Prophets hammered this point over and over again: don't serve God with you lips, serve God with your deeds!

The parable of the wicked tenets is clearly leveled at the religious leaders in Jerusalem. They are the tenants that have been given responsibility of the vineyard and are not being faithful. Hoarding and keeping the kingdom for themselves. Jesus is the coming King that will replace the old with something quite new. Needless to say, the Pharisees and the Scribes and chief priests are not happy (21:46) and begin to look for ways to have Jesus arrested. He is now a threat to their livelihood and their way of life.

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